Police Tasers 'drawn on 400 children in 2013'

Taser stun guns were drawn on children as young as 11 in 2013, official figures show (AFP Photo/Ethan Miller)

London (AFP) - Police in England and Wales aimed taser guns at more than 400 children in 2013, firing on 37 of them, according to figures revealed Wednesday, sparking calls for a rethink of their use.

The figures obtained by BBC Radio 5 live from the Home Office Taser database show that children as young as 11 had a stun gun drawn on them, while the oldest person was 85. The youngest to be struck was 14.

It represents a 38 percent increase on the previous year in the number of children who had a taser pointed at them, according to the BBC report.

Former home secretary David Blunkett, who first introduced the device into British police forces, called on police chiefs to look at who was being authorised to use them and consider possible alternatives.

"I think it's time for a review that incorporates the use of Tasers with advice and support on how to deal with difficult situations," he said.

"For a youngster, 11 years old, a Taser is not in my view an appropriate way of dealing with a situation which clearly must have been out of hand, but where we need to train people to use much more traditional alternatives."

The Home Office announced a review into the use of Tasers last October as fears grew that physical restraint was being used too frequently against people with mental health problems.

The weapons, classed as non-lethal, deliver short pulses of electricity that cause the suspect's muscles to contract, resulting in temporary paralysis.

Responding to the BBC report, a Home Office spokesman said the use of "sensitive police powers" including force should be subject to "proper accountability and transparency".

"Taser is an important tactical option to help specially trained police officers resolve potentially violent situations safely, but it is right that its use is subject to the same level of scrutiny," he said.

"That is why the Home Secretary asked Chief Constable David Shaw to lead an in-depth review of the publication of Taser data and other use of force by police officers, to ensure these powers are being used appropriately."

The review will put forward options for publishing data showing who is using Tasers, who they are being used on, and the outcomes of the action, the spokesman added.

The Home Office stressed that only authorised firearms officers and specially trained units can use Tasers and the "vulnerability" of the target plus factors such as age and stature should be considered.